Jim O'Toole, the former Worcester Warriors executive leading an American-backed consortium bidding to buy the club, says his group can pay the £17.5 million required to complete a takeover “at warp speed” and salvage their next fixture against Harlequins.
Worcester's Gallagher Premiership match with Gloucester this weekend will not take place after the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the crisis club's main creditor, applied to the court on Tuesday to place it into administration, with the club currently suspended from playing in all competitions by the Rugby Football Union.
Next weekend's game with Harlequins is also in doubt with players unable to train at their Sixways site and given the week off, but O'Toole, speaking to Telegraph Sport, believes Worcester could return following their bye week in three weeks’ time if his consortium's proposal is accepted, and possibly even sooner for the game with Harlequins on October 8, because they have the funds to save the club from oblivion.
“It needs four years of current losses covered, £4m per year, so you're looking at a commitment of £16m and short-term funding of the administration, which we have budgeted at £1.5m,” O’Toole told Telegraph Sport.
“Add those together and that's the funding we would commit over that period. During that period the operating and business model will have changed so you'd hope to be able to reduce those numbers, but that's what you'll have to commit to, to persuade Premiership Rugby, the RFU and DCMS that you are serious.
"You can do a deal within two weeks, especially if we show proof of funds and they accept our proposition. If it all went at warp speed, the guys could be in training next week for the Harlequins match. But you would have to think [the Gloucester and Harlequins] games won't happen. After that you have a bye week, so there's a three-week window to get it done.
"We're happy to move at warp speed, it's just a case of how [the administrators] are going to play it. Any court-appointed administrator has to market a business for a minimum of two weeks to get the best possible return for their clients which are the creditors. The primary creditors are DCMS with their £15m."
O'Toole added that the consortium, which includes former London Irish player James Sandford, does not yet want to reveal the identity of its unnamed American investment.
“[The American investment] do not want to be revealed, and we won't until we're successful,” he added. “The minute it changes, all hell will break loose and profile will not be an issue. If you're in a race and you lost it you don't want people to know you're in it, so we're keeping that quiet until after. You have to reveal it to the governing bodies, but we wouldn't go public with it.”
Outlining the consortium's plans to rejuvenate the club, O'Toole stressed that building hotel and conference facilities were a priority, as well as an additional health facility, with the latter falling in the area of expertise of Atlas SportsTech, one of the partners in the consortium.
"Worcester desperately needs a hotel, a conference and exhibition facility. We would happily build both of those on site," he explained. "There have been long discussed plans for a medical centre to help soak up the excess demand on all of the local NHS hospitals. We would happily build that as well, and we could have that up and running on a temporary basis very quickly because it's the space in which one of our partners operates."
Deal needs to be completed quickly if club is to survive
But the promise of immediate funding also came with a doomsday scenario warning, with O’Toole, who was Worcester's chief executive between 2015 and 2017 under the club's previous owners, warning that any delays to swift talks could kill off the club for good.
"It all completely depends on the administrators,” he said. “If they want to get it done, great. If they want to drag it out for months then the club will die, make no mistake about it.
"If you miss more than two games, I think you're in serious trouble. Where do you go from there - you wouldn't complete this season and where do you start next season?"
Regarding the long-term health of the Premiership, with Wasps having filed a notice to appoint an administrator last week, O'Toole added that the league's entire financial model needs to be re-evaluated, and called for the salary cup to decrease further from the current £5m per season reduction come 2024-25 rather than returning to the previous £6.4m limit.
"This sport needs a reboot, it absolutely needs a reboot. It needs a reboot on governance of PRL, and I don't mind saying that,” he explained.
“The clubs run the league because the RFU didn't want to in 1996. It needs an independent commissioner, not an employee of the company. I know that's a very American approach, but that's what it needs.
"It needs a serious rethink on the salary cap. The £5m mark now, instead of heading north it needs to head south. We've had 25 years working this current model and it patently doesn't work, so let's have a reboot and get back to what the purpose is of this league. I personally think there should be a focus on English-qualified players across the league, all in partnership with the RFU obviously, and the salary cap should be headed towards £4m, not £6m."